The Malaysian government should urgently adopt reforms to ensure accountability for death in custody and unjustified police shooting, Human Rights Watch said in a new report.
The human rights group also reaffirmed earlier calls for an independent external oversight for the police to end up cover-ups, excessive secrecy and obstruction of investigation into abuses.
The 102-page report, "No answers, no apology":POlice Abuses and Accountability in Malaysia examined cases of alleged police abuse in Malaysia since 2009, drawing on first-hand interviews and complaints by victims and their families.
The group also found that investigations into police abuse were conducted primarily by the police themselves, lack transparency and officers implicated in abuses were almost never prosecuted.
"Malaysia's police are not accountable to anyone but themselves, and ordinary people across the country too often pay the price with broken bodies and tragically shortened lives,"Human Rights Watch deputy Asia director Phil Robertson said in a statement Apr 2.
"The Malaysian government needs to put in place effective oversight of the police to end the wrongful deaths, preventable ause in custody and excessive use of force on the streets," he said.
The group interviewed 75 people in Malaysia for the report, including victims of police abuses and their family members, lawyers, police officials including the current Inspector General of Police, public prosecutors, and staff members of government commissions and non-governmental organisations.
The group said the lack of police accountability facilitated abusive and sometimes deadly police practices.
"Vague policies, substandard training, lack of transparency and failure of leadership to investigate and prevent illegal practices all create opportunities for police abuse," the group said.
It said the Malaysian government and the Inspector General of Police have appeared to abdicate their responsibility by not making the policy changes necessary to ensure effective oversight and accountability in cases of wrongful deaths, mistreatment in custody and excessive use of force.
Major problem of death in custody
The group said the unwillingness on the part of the government and the IGP to ensure that the police cooperate with oversight bodies such as the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) and the Enforcement Agency Integrity Commission (EIAC) or to establish a specialised independent police investigatory body as recommended by the Royal Commission had worsened the problem.
The human rights group also said that death in police custody to be a "major" problem.
It noted that demands for police accountability were hampered by weaknesses in government pathologists' post mortem examinations that typically did not consider whether death might have resulted from police mistreatment.
"Many victims' families seek a second post-mortem to get an independent appraisal of the cause of death,"the group said.
It also noted that families of victims have little chance of seeing the police investigated, punished or prosecuted.
"The police's excessive secrecy means that victims and their families rarely learn whether the complaints is being investigated or any disciplinary action has been taken," the group said.